We were leafing through old copies of Frieze the other day at UnMasterclass headquarters and came across an article on Glenn Brown that caught our eye. There are obvious connections between Brown's meticulous painted (not strictly) copies of famous paintings and the copies we produce each week. Well there may be one obvious connection, we both produce paintings that directly reference other peoples paintings. Brown's work takes months to produce, as he replicates, accentuates and emphasises the flawed printed reproductions of Dali Auerbach and Valesquez. The intricate and fine brush and skill of Brown as an artist are laid bare for all to see. Meanwhile over at UnMasterclass HQ we also seek to draw attention to the flaws in understanding painting from a reproduction, instead of the real painting as Brown's work class to attention. Lets just say that we lack the skill, patience, finesse, time and will power to go down Brown's line of enquiry, and .anyhow, he has made that particular line of enquiry his own, why would we compete? (a friend of UnMAsterclasses once spent months producing a meticulous pencil drawing of Brown's painting of an Auerbach when he showed it for the first time to some fellow artists, they murmured a less than impressed why would you do this? response and so they might, but we digress from the point here.) Here at UnMasterclass we do not want to become the master that the public hold in awe, rather to show the folly of not learning a craft and doing it properly. Our paintings are all produced too quickly and without enough knowledge of the original painting to be held in any sort of esteem and in this we are mirroring society, in an age where knowledge is gained and forgotten at the clicking of the Google search. In the article on Brown in Frieze number 12, Stuart Morgan rightly refers to Walter Benjamin in relation to Brown's work, saying that Brown uses his traditional painting methods as an act of sabotage. Morgan earlier states that "photography, in particular, banalizes works of art: eliminating traces of the hand, it minimizes the role of size and scale, alters colours (however subtly) and insidiously provides a version that replaces the original." Here Morgan has got to the crux of UnMasterclass, and of course Brown's work. We have become familiar with works of art, among other things, through photographic reproductions of originals. These reproductions are not the originals. Yet we hold great sway by them, our world exists on seeing reproductions all the time. And maybe, at least where painting is concerned, we need to devote ourselves a little, to seek out the original and not rely on the reproduction. So put down the mouse, shut the laptop and pop along to a gallery and see some art first hand. However if you cannot bear to part the pixels then pop along to http://vimeo.com/26542426 to see a pitiful attempt at a Cotan masterpiece in the latest UnMasterclass.
Andrew Bracey is an artist based in Manchester. This blog displays news of his latest exhibitions and during 2011 is home to a series of posts on UnMasterclass. His work explores what painting can be in the contemporary world, he does not always use paint or canvas though. He is currently a Senior lecturer in fine art at the University of Lincoln and a member of Suite Studio Group. You can see more of his work at www.andrewbracey.co.uk